Tweets have begun to show up in Google search results, and Twitter's stock is up a bit. Probably not a coincidence. Investors hope this deal will help the company capture a broader audience, and turn the casual onlookers, who may stumble upon a tweet while browsing the Web, into active members.
While Google is giving Twitter a nice billboard for its content, the experience leaves something to be desired. The full body of the tweet, including a photo if there is one, lives on the search page. Clicking one brings you to Twitter's site, which includes the same information, along with the number of retweets and favorites the post has received. (If you're not a Twitter user, do these numbers even mean anything to you?) Above that, for nonmembers, are giant buttons that say “Sign Up” and “Log In.” Hit just about any other button on the page, and you get a popup that implores you, again, to please, please sign up for Twitter.
As the company struggles to add users at the rate it used to, a key part of Twitter's strategy involves drawing people in from around the Web. Twitter has been working on the experience for logged-out users on desktop computers, adding a new homepage that allows people to browse tweets about certain subjects, like Nascar or cute animals.
James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co., says the Google deal shows Twitter isn't there yet on mobile. With the current implementation, Twitter runs the risk of drawing people to click on tweets, only to repel them with desperate pleas to sign up or log in for more, he says. “The experience is pretty cool in the search results, but that does not necessarily correlate to engagement, monetization, and conversion,” Cakmak says. “There is nothing on mobile to drive eyeballs to. The logged-out experience is barely figured out on desktop, and they've been working on it since November.”
A Twitter spokesman declined to comment. Twitter Chief Executive Officer Dick Costolo said in April that the point of the Google deal “is that people consume and engage with that content, whether they log in or not.”